The West Bank Rises Up

by Penny Johnson , Lee O'Brien
published in MER152

Ramallah’s landscape this February 21 has overtones of a war zone. Residents have dismantled the ancient stone wall across the street for a series of barricades. The smoke of a burning tire rises in the clear early afternoon air over nearby al-Am‘ari refugee camp and army flares light the camp at night. The camp’s main entrance has been sealed by a wall of cement-filled barrels. Helicopters chop the air overhead; sirens of ambulances and army jeeps pierce streets that are virtually deserted this afternoon, ordinarily a busy time of day. In camps and villages, even the winter nights are the scenes of sharp confrontation.

Palestinian Expression Inside a Cultural Ghetto

by Kamal Boullata
published in MER159

During the summer of 1986,1 spent a month in the West Bank, keen to learn for myself about the effects of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian forms of expression, particularly in the visual arts and local crafts. A quick look at different cultural products indicated that traditional aesthetic values have for some time been rapidly eroding. Alternative aesthetic values were more often than not crudely colored by the reactive rhetoric intrinsic to the cultural ghetto created by the occupation. I set out to explore for myself the process that brings into being products which stir a sense of pride among Palestinians living under occupation, and to understand the components that endow these cultural products with their uniquely Palestinian character.

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Who's Afraid of Mahmoud Darwish?

by Ammiel Alcalay
published in MER154

Under normal circumstances, Arabic literature of any kind passes virtually unnoticed in Israel, despite the fact that a few of the most well-known contemporary Arab writers are Israeli citizens. But the publication of “Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words,” a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian national poet adopted by the Israeli “peace camp” as a “moderate” (and himself a former Israeli citizen), has sparked a furor across the entire political spectrum.

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Notes on Palestinian Political Leadership

The "Personalities" of the Occupied Territories

by Ziad Abu 'Amr
published in MER154

The question of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza is one of the key issues in the effort to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel has systematically suppressed political expression in the Occupied Territories, deporting or imprisoning local leaders as they emerge. The Palestinians, for their part, insist that the “correct address” of their representatives is the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), based outside the territories.

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The PLO and the Uprising

by Rashid Khalidi
published in MER154

For many years, for many people, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict consisted primarily of the struggle between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel, a struggle waged mainly outside of Palestine. The uprising in the Occupied Territories has firmly fixed the attention of the world on events within Palestine’s frontiers. While the Palestinians inside insist that they have no representative other than the PLO, that they are one with the PLO, they have also shown that they, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, are fully capable of leading the struggle against the occupation. This marks a new development in the dynamic of relations between Palestinians in the diaspora and those inside the Occupied Territories.

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Palestine for Beginners

by Joel Beinin , Lisa Hajjar
published in MER154

After World War I, the League of Nations (controlled by the leading colonial powers of the time, Britain and France) carved up the territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The territory now made up of Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan was granted to Great Britain as a Mandate (a quasi-colonial form of administration). In 1922, Britain established the emirate of Transjordan (east of the Jordan River), still part of its mandate but administratively distinct from Palestine.

When Britain assumed control of Palestine, over 90 percent of its population was Arab. A small indigenous Jewish population had lived there for generations, and a newer, politicized community linked to the Zionist movement had begun to immigrate to Palestine in the 1880s.

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The Significance of Stones

Notes from the Seventh Month

by Joe Stork
published in MER154

Visitors to the West Bank and Gaza get a very immediate, sensory grasp of the significance of stones. In the West Bank, the main cities and towns and many larger villages lie along the ridge of hills and plateaus running north to south and forming a sort of geological spine between the Mediterranean coastal plains and the Jordan rift valley. It is a land made of equal measure of stone and soil. The inhabitants and their ancestors have used the stone to hold the soil to the hillsides in order to provide rooting ground for their olive and fruit trees. The hill country of the West Bank is a subtly sculptured landscape of terraces that testify to uncounted generations of unobtrusive settlement, rows of rough stones piled patiently and mended every several seasons.

The Islamic Resistance Movement in the Palestinian Uprising

by Lisa Taraki
published in MER156

By the beginning of the first week of October 1988, as the Palestinian uprising moved into its eleventh month, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, known by its Arabic acronym Hamas) had issued its thirtieth communiqué. Hamas appears to be engaged in a competitive race with the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising for direction of the daily struggle of the people of the Occupied Territories. Yet despite the fact that Hamas is six communiqués ahead of the Unified Leadership, it is another matter altogether whether it can command the kind of legitimacy and influence required to direct the Palestinian struggle against occupation.

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From Intifada to Independence

by Edward Said
published in MER158

The nineteenth session of the Palestine National Council, formally entitled the “intifada meeting,” was momentous and, in many great and small ways, unprecedented. There were fewer hangers-on, groupies and “observers” than ever before. Security was tighter and more unpleasant than during the 1987 PNC session, also held in Algiers; Algeria had just brutally suppressed its own intifada, so the presence of several hundred Palestinians and at least 1,200 members of the press was not especially welcomed by the Ben Jadid government, which paradoxically needed the event to restore some of its tarnished revolutionary luster.

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Enduring Intifada Injuries

by Rania Atalla
published in MER161

The nightmare started when 24-year-old Ahlam, from the village of Ya’bud in the Israeli-occupied territories, joined a march to commemorate the martyrdom of a fellow villager.

“The situation was so tense that the Israeli army could not enter the village,” she recalled from her hospital bed in Amman. “A helicopter started throwing tear gas onto the 8,000 or so peaceful demonstrators.”

One of the canisters landed close to Ahlam. She attempted to kick it away, but within a minute she lost consciousness from tear gas inhalation.

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